Here is a little insight to my life here in Barcelona, Spain as a exchange student! It has been an amazing time so far to say the least, I have met many new friends and have already seen quite a bit of Catalonia and the local culture here. Upon moving into my apartment, I was really nervous. Fresh off of 20+ hours of traveling, my house wasn’t what I was expecting, but its location 5 minutes from my university trumps any complaints I have. Getting acclimated to the city was tough, the first week I could not sleep longer than 3 hours and would often be awake until 3-4 am restless in bed. After awhile, I was able to get over my jet lag and actually get to start enjoying the city. Here at UPF, there is an organization that hosts a welcome orientation along with 2 weeks of welcome events for exchange students. Through this organization, I have seen so much of the city and have met many amazing friends from all over the world. From these people I’ve met, there is a group of about 20 that I have become very close with. We’ve traveled around the state of Catalonia and have seen two other cities, Girona and Tarragona, in addition to everything we’ve done around Barcelona. With all the fun and good things has also come with the downsides of living here. As most people have heard, pick-pocketing and mugging are rampant here in Spain, especially Barcelona. I have 4 friends who have been pick-pocketed and/or mugged by people here in the city. Just the other night, a friend and I were walking home and a group of guys attempted to pickpocket us. Luckily we were able to get away without get losing any belongings or getting hurt. It is a huge difference living in a city where you have to be conscious of your surroundings all the time. It is a weird experience that really makes you appreciate living in safe places like in College Station and Dallas. School here is also very different. I go to class Monday-Tuesday, 9-2, and Wednesday-Friday for only 1 hour. We also do not have exams throughout the semester but rather one final cumulative exam at the end. This is a lot different than how it is back home, and is taking some getting used to. Overall, school is great, the food is amazing, the friends are for a lifetime, and the sights are well worth being seen. I look forward to posting another post around the end of this month with the next things I have done! Until then, here are some amazing photos that will definitely cause you to want to come visit!
Madrid is unlike any other city! Before arriving, I was a little anxious about my study abroad because the furthest I have been outside the United States was to Mexico to visit family and to Canada. That being said, I have never ventured very far from home. My doubts and fears were put to rest because my host family welcomed me with open arms and helped me become situated. In my week and a half being In Madrid, I have learned that people here are very friendly. The city itself is very safe and walking around at night one feels extremely safe. The only thing one has to worry about here is pick pocketing, especially in the metro. The public transportation in Madrid and in Spain in general is incredible so if you decide to come to UC3M for your exchange purchase a madrid monthly public transportation pass, which will allow you to utilize all the forms of public transportation in Madrid and surrounding areas around for only 20 euros for month. Living in Sol, or the city center is the best option because with public transportation (trian/metro) to get to my university only takes 15/20 minutes. My time in the city center is incredible because I get the opportunity to be close to everything and spend my time abroad here the beautiful cities of Madrid.
The country and culture of Spain is amazing but it is very different than the United States. For starters, people here are more laid back, hence their need to take sietas here in the middle of the day! I found this out firsthand in my time here when a group of friends and I went out to eat and the restaurant was closed due to “siesta”. Also, from Madrid many major cities and tourist spots are close so traveling is super easy. To make traveling super easier and stress free, I would recommend using the sites smartinsiders, citylifemadrid, and bemadrid. I have already gone on a trip with smartinsiders and it was amazing because everything was planned and I had the chance to meet other international students! The trip itself was to Salamanca & Avila which is super close to Madrid so we made a day trip out of it! The total cost of the trip was 25 euros, which wasn’t bad considering everything was included. In my time here, I have also gotten the chance to meet other international students after the Orientation day because the University Carlos Tercero de Madrid offers a buddy program that is amazing. The program pairs you up with a student from the university and other international students. In my group we were about 10 and it was great getting to know other people from different parts of the world. I would highly recommend doing the buddy system for those interested in coming to UC3M.
As far as the university goes! I had a bit of an issue when registering for classes but I was able to resolve my issues with ease. The registration system for UC3M is a little different than the United States then that when you choose a class to your cart (add class) it technically isn’t yours because you have to confirm the classes for your spot to be secured. Basically I had planned to take 3 classes in Spanish and one very important class (international business management) in English but unfortunately that class filled very quickly! After this happened. I noticed that this class still had one spot in Spanish so I managed to reserve my seat in that class. All in all, the school is very easy to get used to! Classes are not to far away from each other and here sometimes you finish your class in one day for the week, because your two class sections are on same day. Here one class section will be more of lecture and the other you will have to do more group work and do more practical work. The university also has cafeterias that are delicious and offer a large array of food options, which I would highly recommend going between classes or if you have a break. I have not received books yet but according to my friends at the University one can easily check out books at the library or order the books at store on campus or one campus if need be. Attendance is mostly mandatory for some class sections and some professors are more strict than others. The school here is different than the States because looking at the syllabus they don’t have many tests and quizzes but they do have continuous assignments and a final that is usually worth 50% or more for final letter grade. The school offers Spanish courses outside the main classes offered for anyone interested in picking up the language.
My last month in Madrid was as bittersweet as can be…
The month of May asked me to study a lot more than I was accustomed to from this semester but was still amazing. The first half of the month we still played since finals weren’t for a few more weeks. The Aggie girls took an unbelievable weekend trip around Greece on a sailboat. We rented a boat out of athens for 4 days and 3 nights and bought grocery store food to save money on expenses on the boat. We saw the most beautiful islands and even got in some natural springs! However, as per usual: I was so ready to be back in Madrid. My love for this incredible city has only deepened more and more as the semester has gone on. I love coming home here, and I have accumulated an extremely long list of recommendations for others and things I wanted to repeat just onnneee more time before I left. Since I needed to study a lot the second half of the month, I got in the amazing habit of waking up early to study, eating lunch at the usual 2 PM with a gourmet 10 euro “Menu del Día” (3 course phenomenal spanish meal), back for more study, and then finishing off with a drink with all of the aggies. What a rhythm! As simple as it sounds, it was amazing because it was all in Spain. The last weekend before I left, I went to Barcelona to visit my friend there one last time. I brought my friend Abigiail from Purdue that we aggies had all gotten pretty close to, and we just flew in for the usual weekend excursion. My best day of study abroad happened the Saturday before I left:
-woke up in Pierre Pescador (north of Barcelona) at our friends lakehouse
-bought drinks and salads and hummus to fill a cooler
-took everything onto Marc (our friend from Barcelona)’s boat
-set off for a stunning bay where we anchored
-spent the entire day anchored here swimming, napping, singing to Abigail’s ukelele
THIS IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
Every moment of that last month, my heart was torn between absolutely LOVING my current stage of life and HATING that life was about the ask me to leave it. This semester was the dream. People keep asking me that inevitable question: “how was Spain?” My answer holds true to the same: “It was so good in fact that I could absolutely convince myself that it never happened; it was too good to be true; I must have been dreaming for a week straight… But luckily I took photos and journaled and blogged so that I KNOW it reallly actually happened.” As I have been home the past few weeks processing it and missing it and listening to nothing but Reggaetón music, it hits me more and more how sweet this semester truly was. Adios españa… Nunca voy a olvidarte.
^Our little yacht for Greece girls trip!
^My favorite group of people forever! Love these spanish aggies so much
^dreaming of these view in Greece!
Our group of friends at our one really fancy night out in Madrid! From left to right: Lydia (me), Kelsey, Mikel, Mita, Alexis, and Abigail
And by here, I mean April! How in the world is it already April? I know that blogs should not be the place to pour out your feelings, but when I think about only have a month left, I get very very nostalgic. I have loved this semester more than I ever dreamed possible. The life I am living here cannot be reality… I truly feel like it is one sweet dream. I have come to grips with the fact that no period in my life after this semester will ever be as independent and free and with such little responsibility. But now, I have only one month left. Honestly, I don’t think that when I get back I will say “Oh Lydia, why didn’t you savor each moment more?” Why won’t I be able to ask myself that? Because I truly feel like I am enjoying each moment to the fullest. Even if the moment is just me sitting at home studying (rare moment, it’s true) with my host mom, I love it so thoroughly that I do take the time to appreciate it.
Okay, that paragraph was dramatic. BUT IT’S TRUE. If I could, I would race back uphill in this slow slide downwards to May and do it again. It would be so nice to be like the movie “About Time” with Rachel McAdams and be able to choose days to relive. I would do it, for this semester.
April was so sweet. I am beginning to feel a lot more confident that:
I am actually retaining the Spanish that I am learning.
I am not behind in classes here.
These Aggie study abroad people are going to be my friends for a long time (s/o to you people #blessed).
I am actually an efficient traveler.
Being away from Madrid isn’t the worse thing ever, but
I never want to go home.
So, here we go.
1. I am actually retaining the Spanish that I am learning.
When my parents were here, I had to translate for them…. a lot. It was amazing for me! All of my life, my dad told my brothers and I that if we became fluent in any language, he would pay for a trip for us to visit a country that spoke that language. All of my life, I tried to have conversations in Spanish around him, but it would never go in my favor. Maybe the waiters spoke so much slang that I was hopelessly lost, I wouldn’t know a question to ask, or I was simply too shy to speak up. Regardless, he never saw that I could speak any Spanish before I came to Spain. This was my chance to actually show my parents that they paid for this trip and it was helpful for Spanish also! Throughout their 2 weeks here, I had countless conversations in Spanish in front of them and I felt so much more confident when they left that I truly was retaining some Spanish from this!
2. I am not behind in classes here.
Easily explained: I felt like I was behind in my classes, but I’m not. This might seem like a silly thing, but with so much traveling and playing this semester, I felt sure that there was no way I was doing all that needed to be done for these classes. As it turns out, Texas A&M is a school of exceptional excellence and has trained me to do a lot more work than Spanish universities do. After asking around a lot this month and reading all my syllabi again, I realized that I really was on top of my classes. Hooray for traveling without feelings of guilt as if I should be studying more! Woe to me when I return to the courseload of TAMU, though.
3. These Aggie study abroad people are going to be my friends for a long time (s/o to you people #blessed).
After a month of hanging with the Aggies here, I was unsure how sincere these friendships would be when we returned. We were all so different! However, we have all had some very deep conversations with each other at this point, and there is no turning back from here. I am thrilled that we were all able to get so close this semester so that we will be able to have friends to share our experiences with when we return. That truly was a fear of mine before coming, that I would make friends from across the world, none of whom would be in College Station with me to share in missing Madrid when we were home. The thought of running into one of these fools while walking around Wehner is the best! I know it will be so fun to share life back in College Station together. Tapas night, coming in hot for ya Cstat!
P.S. This month I also went to visit my brother’s best friend from his study abroad with REEP! His friend lives in Barcelona, it was the best! The pic below is of us with the Sagrada Familia aka fav church ever:
4. I am actually an efficient traveler.
I doubted my ability to really travel well before I came. I thought that I would probably be irresponsible and late and forgetful and all of the things that make you not a great traveler. In fact, I am a great traveler! I have learned so much this semester about how to travel well. I know how to travel with very little money and very little time. I can travel by myself or with people, and I know that it doesn’t take a lot of money to travel. There are always ways to travel for dirt-cheap, if you know how to look for them. Take the bus, buy your food from grocery stores, stay in hostels… All of these things are completely doable if you want to travel for super cheap! For all the times that I almost missed a plane or bus… I only missed one 😉
5. Being away from Madrid isn’t the worse thing ever.
This sentence is only relevant if you consider going other places in Europe. If you are talking about returning to the states, well… We’ll talk about that next 😉 About halfway through this semester, I was so sad that I had booked so many trips that brought me away from Spain. Even sometimes places in Spain that weren’t Madrid I would be a little sad about. We were traveling so much that I didn’t even have time to prepare for each trip, I would only have time to go to class and then get on another plane. This month, something changed in my heart. I began truuly enjoying the trips. I think it was when I became confident that I was actually learning Spanish that I realized I should enjoy traveling more. I was still going to learn Spanish even with the trips. This month, I went to Italy for a week for our “Semana Santa,” or “Holy Week”, or Spring Break. 😉 It was the best! We spent a few days in Florence, Naples, and finally Rome. Since I’ve been dreaming about this trip since the beginning of the semester, I am so happy that I got over my Madrid home-sickness to be able to enjoy that week to its fullest.
This picture is of my favorite Frutería here! It’s right next to my apartment, and the guy who owns it always gives me free strawberries as I pass each day through the little window!! His name is Nasir… Yesterday he gave me a heart shaped package wrapped in a grocery sack and told me I wasn’t allowed to open it until I got back to the states 😉 Wonder what it could be?? #chocolatesssss
6. I never want to go home.
Here is the thing: can my friends and family come here? Can chick fil a and american filtered coffee come here? Because then I would be set for the rest of my life. Yes, this is a formal invite to all of those things. Please make your way to Madrid ASAP.
HERE ARE SOME PICS OF ME IN ITALY FOR SPRING BREAK WOW IT WAS THE BEST:
MARCH! This month showed me more than ever how much I actually miss Madrid when I am away from it. I have been traveling so much on the weekends that now my mentality is more of: “Lydia, no more trips! Stay in Madrid or you will spend the whole semester missing it!” After saying goodbye to my friend from the states who came to visit, I had some time in this amazing city just to love it on my own. I would definitely say that though traveling is amazing, March showed me that each day in this city is my real favorite.
Also, I was able to welcome my parents to Madrid this month! It was so fun to be able to do all of the extremely touristy Spanish/Madrid things. I loved being able to translate for them (it made me feel very proficient in my spanish), tour with them, and do the fancy things around the city that we students don’t quite have the funds to supply. They even took the Aggies all out to dinner at a shwanky place. 🙂 So fun/gig em!
We started in Madrid, hitting the Royal Palace (they LOVED this!), the Prado, Retiro, a BULL FIGHT (what?!) and finishing with a dinner at my house with my host family. It was so fun to see my host family running around and being SO kind to prepare a meal for my parents. I really felt like royalty. This is spanish hospitality, baby! Not quite Texan hospitality… just a little bit different but still just as sweet. The next day, my parents and I did a wine tour of Ribera del Duero in the north! I loved it!! Later that week, we toured Granada and Sevilla and all the Costa del Sol. What a dream! If anyone reading this ever is going to be studying in Madrid or Andalucia, make sure and take a day trip through a tiny cute little town called Frigiliana on a weekend! It was amazzinggg. It has white buildings and beautiful flowers and the kindest people! We bought the best stroop waffles I’ve ever had there… fresh from the oven! Go on a warm day that doesn’t have a lot of wind, though. This city took me absolutely by surprise, I had never even heard of it! My mom told us to make the turn and WOW, it was so cute. Imagine Cordoba in the mountains!
Even writing this now, I am so excited to talk to people who know Spain about this semester when I get home. Traveling all of this with my parents was amazing, but it definitely did not satisfy the desire in my heart to know Spain on an extremely deep level. I feel like I need to live here for a year or more now, just to get a better feel for this amazing country. Spain is different from the states, too in that I feel like if I lived here for a couple years with the desire to really know it, you could definitely put a dent in it! After a semester, I am feeling like I took a deep breath of a wonderful smell, but I don’t even know what it is yet. It is SPAIN! I want to know it better, but I am realizing now more than ever that I simply do not have the time. My parents told me that they envisioned me returning in some years to tour with maybe a future husband or my best friends after college. What a dream that sounds like!
If there is anything this month taught me, it’s that a semester is not enough and I AM COMING BACK!
Here is a picture of the bullfight that I did with my parents! Honestly I had no idea that they killed bulls before we bought the tickets but it ended up being great! Pretty gross to see the bull die but we got them for my dad’s birthday and it was EPIC! I felt like it was all these old spanish couples there watching.
This is a picture of my parents and I at the Alcazar in Sevilla! 🙂
This is my dad and I on the Costa del Sol, near Malaga and Frigiliana.
Last week, my best friend from the states came to see me! It was crazy feeling like I was welcoming her into my town. I love hosting people normally, and this was no different! We managed to see all my favorite things around Madrid (Including a day trip to Toledo!) while she was here; I was in my element with the opportunity to show someone around! She took this picture on our day trip to Toledo.
There were definitely some crazy things that I noticed while my friend Sarah was here. Most prominently, I noticed that there are many novel things here in Spain which I now take for granted. For example, Iberian ham and paellas are so commonplace to me now! When did that happen? It took me by surprise every time Sarah needed an explanation of Spanish foods. Before she came, I had never considered how many foods I must have learned about when I first arrived! Another thing that stuck out to me while she was here was that I have a list of things that are important to me about Madrid. I insisted that we see all of my favorites while she was here… It was a pretty long list! The Prado Art Museum, Retiro Park, Malasaña, the Royal Palace, and Toledo were some things included. Here is a picture of us on boats at Retiro:
Sarah and I also made friends with the sweet flower lady Nancy at El Rastro, the weekly flea market!
Also, I can add a new favorite now! We went to a Real Madrid fútbol game, it was SO FUN! I have never felt so much a part of the Spanish people than I did at that game. This is a bad picture, but it was an intense game!
Something else that has been on my mind a lot as I reflect on February is the amount that I miss Madrid when I am gone. My friends and I often travel on the weekends, but I love Madrid so much! We have decided that our friend Mikel is going to have the best semester by far because he stays in Madrid on the weekends. Spain is a very special place, why would I leave? Every moment I have here is my favorite, undoubtedly. Let the traveling end and the more thorough enjoyment of MADRID begin! I love everything about this city and this culture and these people. In fact, I love it more every time I leave. I am thrilled to have the rest of the semester here, I will enjoy every moment so sincerely! I am confident that I picked the best city to study in; I miss it like it’s actually home.